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Recyclable Materials and RCRA's Complicated, Conflicting, and Costly Definition of Solid Waste

July 1991

Citation: 21 ELR 10357

Issue: 7

Author: Stephen M. Johnson

Editors' Summary: RCRA is often perceived as establishing a comprehensive regulatory scheme for managing hazardous waste from "cradle to grave." However, when a substance becomes a solid waste subject to RCRA's jurisdiction remains unclear. This Article examines how RCRA defines solid waste and EPA's attempts to clarify that definition. The Article focuses on how this lack of clarity has impacted RCRA's goal of encouraging recycling and recovery of resources from solid waste. The Article analyzes three D.C. Circuit decisions that considered RCRA's definition of solid waste and concludes by discussing an approach that Congress may take to clarify this definition when it reauthorizes RCRA.

The author was an Assistant Counsel in the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources' Office of Chief Counsel from November 1988 to March 1991. The views expressed in this Article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources. This Article was prepared in partial fulfillment of the requirements for an LL.M. in Environmental Law at the National Law Center of George Washington University.

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